This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).






State of Minnesota,


Darin Charles Liberda,


Filed October 22, 2002


Minge, Judge


Hennepin County District Court

File No. 00108653



Ronald S. Latz, Latz & Latz, P.L.L.P., 520 Marquette Avenue South, Suite 900, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for appellant)


Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 525 Park Street, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN 55103;


Todd Schoffelman, Ann Kaul, Associate City Attorneys, 2215 West Old Shakopee Road, Bloomington, MN 55431-3096 (for respondent)


            Considered and decided by Toussaint, Chief Judge, Willis, Judge, and Minge, Judge.


U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


MINGE, Judge


Appellant Darin Liberda challenges his DWI conviction, arguing that the police officer did not have an objective basis to stop appellant’s car because his 20-second delay at a green light alone did not provide an objective basis to suspect criminal activity.   We affirm.




            At approximately 12:38 a.m. on November 4, 2000, Officer Barland observed appellant Darin Liberda stopped at a red light at a controlled intersection.  When the light turned green, appellant waited at the intersection approximately 20 seconds and did not proceed through the intersection until the light turned yellow.  After following appellant for a few blocks without observing any other erratic driving, Barland stopped appellant’s car.

            Barland detected the odor of alcohol on appellant’s breath and appellant admitted that he consumed three alcoholic beverages that evening.  After appellant failed a series of field sobriety tests, Barland arrested appellant on suspicion of driving while under the influence of alcohol and transported him to the Bloomington Police Department.  Appellant agreed to submit to a breath test, which showed an alcohol concentration of .22.  Appellant was charged with a gross misdemeanor DWI in violation of Minn. Stat.    § 169.121, subd. 3(c)(2)(i) (Supp. 1999)[1] (driving while under the influence of alcohol within five years of a prior alcohol-related driving incident) and in violation of Minn. Stat. § 169.121, subd. 3(c)(1) (Supp. 1999) (driving with an alcohol concentration of .20 or more within five years of a prior alcohol-related driving incident).  Appellant moved to dismiss the complaint for lack of probable cause, arguing that the officer did not have a reasonable articulable suspicion of criminal activity to justify the investigatory stop. 

            On January 24, 2001, the district court denied appellant’s motion concluding that the officer had an objective basis for an investigative stop (1) “to check on [appellant’s] health and welfare;” (2) because appellant impeded traffic in violation of Minn. Stat.       § 169.15 (2000); and (3) because the officer reasonably believed that appellant was impaired based on his 20-second hesitation at a green light.  On February 13, appellant entered a Lothenbach plea to a gross misdemeanor of .20 or more alcohol concentration; the other gross misdemeanor DWI charge was dismissed.  This appeal followed.



            An appellate court reviews a stop based on given facts as a matter of law to determine if the basis for the stop was adequate.  Berge v. Comm’r of Pub. Safety, 374 N.W.2d 730, 732 (Minn. 1985).  An officer’s investigatory stop of a moving vehicle is lawful if the officer can “articulate a ‘particularized and objective basis for suspecting the particular person stopped of criminal activity.’”  State v. Haataja, 611 N.W.2d 353, 354 (Minn. App. 2000) (citations and quotation omitted), review denied (Minn. July 25, 2000).  “The factual basis required to support a stop is minimal.”  Knapp v. Comm’r of Pub. Safety, 610 N.W.2d 625, 628 (Minn. 2000) (citation omitted).  “All that is required is that the stop not be the product of mere whim, caprice, or idle curiosity.”  Marben v. Dep’t of Pub. Safety, 294 N.W.2d 697, 699 (Minn. 1980) (quotations omitted).  Probable cause is not required for an investigatory stop, and an officer need not detect an actual violation.  Terry v. Ohio, 293 U.S. 1, 20-22, 88 S. Ct. 1868, 1879-80 (1968).    An officer may justify an investigatory stop “based on the totality of the circumstances and ‘may draw inferences and deductions that might elude an untrained person.’”  State v. Harris, 590 N.W.2d 90, 99 (Minn. 1999) (quoting State v. Cripps, 533 N.W.2d 388, 391 (Minn. 1995)). 

These circumstances include the officer’s general knowledge and experience, the officer’s personal observations, information the officer has received from other sources, the nature of the offense suspected, the time, the location, and anything else that is relevant. 


Appelgate v. Comm’r of Pub. Safety, 402 N.W.2d 106, 108 (Minn. 1987).

            Appellant argues that the district court erred in concluding that the officer had an adequate basis to stop appellant because his 20-second delay in proceeding through the stoplight did not provide adequate justification alone.  An officer need not detect an actual violation, and based on appellant’s 20-second stop at a green light, the officer had an objective basis to believe that appellant’s unusual driving practices suggested that he was impaired.  See State v. Richardson, 622 N.W.2d 823, 826 (Minn. 2001) (concluding that vehicle weaving within lane was enough to support traffic stop to inquire as to the cause of the unusual driving conduct).  Appellant argues that the decision in State v. Hjelmstad, 535 N.W.2d 663 (Minn. App. 1995), should guide our decision.  In the Hjelmstad case, a driver’s four-second delay before proceeding through a green light was not sufficient to justify an officer’s investigatory stop.  Accordingly, appellant contends that his 20-second delay alone is insufficient to support the officer’s stop.  Barland’s observations of appellant waiting at a green light for 20 seconds at midnight until the light turned yellow is five times as long as and thus very different from the four-second delay in Hjelmstad and independently justifies the officer’s inference that appellant was impaired because of his significantly delayed reaction to the light.  While a four-second delay could reasonably be the result of a driver’s inattention to the road, the same cannot be said for a 20-second delay. 

            Appellant also argues that the stop was invalid because (1) he did not impede traffic under Minn. Stat. § 169.15 (2000); and (2) there is no law that authorizes a stop based on one’s welfare and health, as the court concluded.  Because appellant’s 20-second stop at a green light provides independent justification for the investigatory stop we need not address appellant’s other arguments. 




[1] Now found at Minn. Stat. § 169A.20 (2000).